A new pilot program in Springfield is testing ways to help Alzheimer’s patients live in their own homes longer.

Southern Illinois University School of Medicine is pursuing the project with a $702,000, three-year grant from the Illinois Department on Aging.

SIU’s Center for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders (CADRD) in Springfield studies a variety of potential treatments for the degenerative disease, while seeking to understand it better. Alzheimer’s patients, especially those in the advanced stages of the disease, often require help with activities of daily living. SIU says elder care facilities cost nearly eight times more than home health or adult day services.

“Giving patients and caregivers the support and resources they need means patients are less likely to end up in costly assisted living or elder care facilities,” said Dr. Tom Ala, interim director of the CADRD in Springfield.

Announced on Aug. 8, the grant from the Illinois Department on Aging allows the CADRD to develop “person-centered” supportive services for patients with Alzheimer’s and related dementia. The services include an exercise and dance class aimed at preventing falls, an art program fostering creative expression and social engagement, a program which uses music to promote memory, and an evidence-based six-week class for caregivers. The grant will be used expand two of the programs already in existence, while adding new services at sites throughout central and south-central Illinois.

CADRD is partnering with the Illinois Alzheimer’s Association and the Coalition of Limited English Speaking Elderly to eliminate service gaps in SIU’s coverage area. In part, that means developing a “care-navigation” system for caregivers and a webinar series that offers training to identify and refer people with Alzheimer’s who are living alone.

“People in the early stages of dementia can live at home,” said Jeffrey Bennett, MD, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at SIU Medicine. “But it’s important we consider their safety, nutrition and overall well-being, and provide them with the appropriate resources.”

Read more about the grant and associated programs here.